You’ve probably seen bribery and public corruption in the news lately. It’s a frequent headline: “Police officer takes bribes from drug dealers,” or “Judge solicits campaign funds for favors.” But what exactly is bribery? Is bribery a crime? What is the punishment for bribery? We’ll cover it all right here today.
What Is Bribery of Public Officials?
Bribery charges arise when money (or something else of value) is given in exchange for a public official performing some action that benefits the defendant. Each state has laws in place that forbid bribing public officials. This helps eliminate corruption. Further, there are federal laws that prohibit bribery in this regard.
You should note that most bribery laws are aimed at the one who offers the bribe. However, it is illegal for a public official to be involved with accepting a bribe or soliciting anything of value in exchange for favors, results, or actions.
Bribing a Judge
Bribery used to be limited to judges who decided to take money in exchange for a defendant’s desired ruling. However, the federal bribery statute has broadened over the years.
Bribing Government Officials
In the past, laws against bribery have only applied to legitimate, contracted public employees. Today, any and every public official – even those who volunteer in the community – may be labeled as a “public official” when it comes to the purposes of bribery.
According to U.S. Code, a public official means a member of Congress, delegate, or resident commissioner. This person may be in office, nominated, or appointed. They might have only been informed of their nomination. This still counts.
This individual is one who acts on behalf of the United States or any branch, department, or agency performing in any official capacity under such authority of these specific areas of government. Example: a juror.
Bribing a Witness
It is also illegal to bribe a witness. If someone offers a monetary bribe or any sort of exchange of any valuable property with the intent of influencing the testimony of a witness under oath, the briber may face serious consequences.
Is Bribery Illegal in Texas?
It is illegal. But is bribery a felony in Texas? Most of the time. We’ll get into the details in the next section.
For now, here are some examples of bribery scenarios to consider:
- The briber offers to reward a legislator with a stay in the briber’s vacation cabin in the mountains if said legislator votes in a particular way.
- The briber gives a health inspector an envelope filled with cash or even free meals and drinks; in return, the inspector turns a blind eye to a few violations.
- The briber issues payments to a county officer’s campaign. As a result, the county officer ensures the briber will see many county business contracts come their way.
- A judge herself might even ask for a job for her child who is graduating college soon. If she rules a particular way in a case, her child secures the requested job.
Is Bribery a Felony or Misdemeanor in Texas?
You may be wondering – is bribery a felony or misdemeanor? Whether one is on the giving or receiving end of a bribe, bribery is almost always a felony, and those involved could be subject to the maximum penalty for bribery. Bribery is punishable by a state prison term of a single year or more. Often less severe penalties come with commercial bribery, and these offenses may be deemed misdemeanors. Understand that misdemeanors usually result in up to one year in a county or local jail.
The public’s officials and employees may see a penalty for bribery and their acceptance of such an act. They could be forced out of the office they hold or deemed ineligible to work for the government or serve in any elected and appointed positions in the future.
Penalty for Bribery in Texas
The penalty for bribing an officer of the government or for bribing those acting on behalf of any public department, agency, or branch can certainly be severe. If you have been charged with bribery of public officials, you should seek out a criminal defense lawyer like Seth Kretzer who specializes in this area.
Because bribery is often considered a felony, the charges are, of course, nothing to take lightly. Conviction could lead you to a state prison sentence anywhere from a year and up to fifteen years, depending on the case and ruling.
If you are a public official yourself, you could lose your title and position. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand what to expect in the courtroom and how you can navigate your case toward the best outcome possible. There are options: favorable plea bargains, having charges dismissed or dropped, or a lighter sentence.
For help with your criminal case, Houston criminal defense lawyer Seth Kretzer can help. Contact the Law Offices of Seth Kretzer today to schedule a consultation.